We walk on fire or air, so Daddy liked to say. Basement floors too hot to touch. Steaming green lawns in the dead of winter. Sinkholes, quick and sudden, plunging open at your feet. The underground mine fires ravaging Pennsylvania coal country have forced eleven-year-old Brigid Howley and her family to seek refuge with her estranged grandparents, the formidable Gram and the black lung‒stricken Gramp. Tragedy is no stranger to the Howleys, a proud Irish-American clan who takes strange pleasure in the “curse” laid upon them generations earlier by a priest who ran afoul of the Molly Maguires. The weight of this legacy rests heavily on a new generation, when Brigid, already struggling to keep her family together, makes a grisly discovery in a long-abandoned bootleg mine shaft. In the aftermath, decades-old secrets threaten to prove just as dangerous to the Howleys as the burning, hollow ground beneath their feet. Inspired by real-life events in Centralia and Carbondale, where devastating coal mine fires irrevocably changed the lives of residents, The Hollow Ground is an extraordinary debut with an atmospheric, voice-driven narrative and an indelible sense of place. Lovers of literary fiction will find in Harnett’s young, determined protagonist a character as heartbreakingly captivating as Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.
About The Author
NATALIE S. HARNETT is an MFA graduate of Columbia. She has been awarded an Edward Albee Fellowship, a Summer Literary Seminars Fellowship, and a Vermont Studio Center Writer’s Grant. She was a finalist for the Mary McCarthy Prize in Fiction judged by Francine Prose. Harnett has been published in The New York Times, The Madison Review and The MacGuffin. She lives on Long Island with her husband and toddler. Visit her website at www.natalieharnett.com. Library Journal’s Debuts with Buzz: The Hollow Ground “In 1960s Pennsylvania coal country, fires began burning underground that continue today. Set at the time, this first novel by Sandra Schor and James Kreuzer Award winner Harnett features 11-year-old Brigid Howley, whose family must move in with her estranged grandparents when the burning starts. Even as the family struggles to survive, Brigid uncovers a horrific secret in a bootleg mine shaft that sets the whole town on edge. In-house excitement, especially about that Gary Shteyngart blurb.”